Read an Excerpt Mastering the SEVEN DECISIONS That Determine Personal Success
An Owner's Manual to the New York Times Bestseller The Traveler's Gift
By Andy Andrews
Copyright © 2008 Andy Andrews
All right reserved.
The Responsible Decision
The buck stops here.
The Responsible Decision for Personal Success is a key-it represents the beginning. Taking responsibility for your past will segue you into an extraordinary future of your choosing.
From The Traveler's Gift
If decisions are choices ... and our thinking dictates our decisions-then we are where we are because of our thinking. -President Harry S. Truman
Playing the Blame Game
If you want to hear a great fight, just turn on talk radio. They're relentless, those show hosts.
One side says, "These people need to accept responsibility, and until these people accept responsibility ..."
The other side replies, "But it's not their fault. They're not to blame. Don't you understand ...?"
Both sides present a persuasive argument, but both sides are wrong.
Who or what do we blame? We blame our parents. We blame the weather. We blame the economy. We blame the president. We blame our spouses. It's amazing who we think of to blame.
Where I am today, we tell ourselves, is a consequence of what other people (our parents, for example) and circumstances have done to me. In blaming other people and events, we weaken our power. We argue, "It's not my fault ..." As soon as we subscribe to this line of thinking, our chances for any kind of success dramatically decline.
When I was at my all-time low-homeless, living under a pier-I remember somebody telling me, "Well, you chose this." At first, that infuriated me. I remember thinking, I didn't choose this. If my parents hadn't died, if there had been more insurance, if someone had helped me, if only ...
The problem with this line of thinking is that if we don't accept responsibility for where we are right now, we have no hope of changing our future. I promise you: if it's the president's fault, if it's our neighbor's fault, if it's our spouses' fault, if it's the government's fault, if it's the weather's fault, then we truly are stuck! What are you going to do about the president? What are you going to do about the weather? What can you do about your neighbor? I'll tell you: nothing! But if you can find the answer to your problems in the mirror-if the solution lies within you-well, there's boundless hope, because you can start working on yourself today!
What most of the people on talk radio don't seem to understand is that responsibility is not about blame or making someone feel bad about their situation. Responsibility is about hope and control. You feel more hopeful when you spread this vastly different perspective about responsibility-you can control your future! Who among us doesn't want a better future? These Seven Decisions can give you a better tomorrow by affecting the choices you make today.
Your day of reckoning is important. You must come to the self-realization that even though you couldn't control any of the crazy things that have happened in your life, your choices in response to those things are what has led you down this path you don't like.
We have the power to make choices that lead us to places we don't like. And that's great news! If we can make choices that lead us to places we don't like, then doesn't it stand to reason that we can also make choices that will lead us to a place we do like? If where we are today is not in our control, then how can tomorrow's fate be better? The game, then, becomes simple: make better choices.
We make our own way. Now that you're completely aware of this, you can claim it, make the decision to take responsibility, and begin living the Responsible Decision: I am responsible for my past and my future. Why is that important? Until we accept responsibility for where we are, we have no basis for moving forward in our lives.
The Power of Thought
The Responsible Decision is all about owning our power. In a way, our choices have made us what we are today. And fundamentally, our thinking-the internal lens through which we see the world-creates a pathway to success or failure. To accept responsibility for our choices includes becoming aware of and accepting responsibility for our thinking. This clarification gives us the basis for moving on.
People sometimes question this idea. "Now, how does my thinking create a pathway for success or failure?" Despite what you may believe, outside influences are not responsible for where you are in life mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, or financially. You alone have chosen the path to your present destination.
Decisions are an outward expression of our thinking. Most people agree that their decisions have guided them to where they are. If you want to create a pathway to the success you've dreamed of rather than the reality you're currently experiencing, change your thinking.
You are where you are because of how you think. If you're in a bad place financially, physically, emotionally, socially, or spiritually, what does that tell you? Think about it: Nobody sets out to fail. Nobody says, "I'm going to make every bad decision I can possibly make."
Instead we say, "I'm going to figure this out. I'm going to do the right thing."
And yet, we often end up in a horrible place in spite of ourselves! How does this happen? In many cases, our thinking got us here.
The primary way our thinking must change is to realize we are responsible for where we are. If we are responsible for where we are, we have hope! If we are responsible for where we are, then we can be responsible for where we're going. By disowning responsibility for our present, we give our power away and deny ourselves an incredible future.
We are often tempted to think, Well, this is not my fault. The words "It's not my fault" should never again come from your mouth! They have been symbolically written on the gravestones of unsuccessful people ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite of that apple.
Until we take responsibility for where we are, there's no basis for moving on. By taking responsibility, we have hope.
Catching the Prize
In the 1920s, a well-known, wealthy industrialist controlled a vast portion of our country's prosperity, and with his wealth, he purchased a zoo. It wasn't a public zoo, or even a private zoo; it was his personal zoo, located on his estate, for the pleasure of this one man and his family. National dignitaries were occasionally allowed to view the animals. In the days before zoo-breeding programs traded animals, his zoo was one of the most complete collections the zoological world had ever known. (During this time, zookeepers traveled to various countries, mounted safaris, and captured the animals to bring them back.)
One day, he heard about a rare and beautiful type of gazelle from Africa that wasn't showcased in any zoo in the world. He became obsessed with the idea of becoming the first to have one of these animals in his collection.
He mounted an expedition to Africa, including food, supplies, and men to carry the tents. When they landed on the African shores, the man contacted the natives to learn about this animal and its whereabouts. Over and over he was told, "You'll never catch one. They're too fast and too strong. You can shoot and kill them from a distance-but you'll never get close enough to take one alive."
He told a reporter who was on the safari with him, "Don't listen to them; I'll get as many of them as I want! And it won't be a problem."
When his men located a herd, he poured sweet feed-a blend of oats and barley rolled in molasses-on the ground in an open area in the middle of the night and left. The next night, he scattered the feed again. For two weeks, he spread the feed, night after night.
The animals, of course, came in and ate it. On the first night of the third week, he scattered the feed and sank an eight-foot post into the ground twenty feet away. The next night, he scattered the feed and sank another post into the ground twenty feet in the opposite direction. Every night, he added a post. Then he started putting boards between the posts while scattering the feed.
Six weeks rolled by. He continued adding posts and boards until he had a corral built around this feed. Every night these animals found the gaps between the posts until, finally, he watched the entire herd squeeze through the final gap. He moved in behind them and nailed the last board into place. The animals were trapped inside the corral.
He chose the animals he wanted to take residency in his zoo and let the others go.
When he was asked how he knew how to catch them, he said something that chills me to the bone: "I treat animals the same way I treat people: I give them what they want. I give them food and shelter. In exchange, they give me their beauty and their freedom."
Are you trading your beauty and freedom to help someone else's dreams come true? Way too many people trade out their freedom for security, and they don't even realize it. There's a difference between an opportunity you seize and a trap you walk into. Being aware of the choice and the trap is the key.
The buck stops here. You're responsible for your past and your future. The bad news is that the past was in your hands, but the good news is that the future is also in your hands.
You trade away your freedom every time you blame your parents, your spouse, your boss, or a colleague for your present situation. You trade away your freedom every time you blame your education (or lack thereof), your genetics, or the circumstantial ebb and flow of everyday life.
If you allow yourself to blame these uncontrollable forces for your lack of success, you'll be forever caught in the web of the past, a victim to your fears and frustrations. You cannot let your history control your destiny. By choosing to take responsibility, you can avoid living reactively-selling out your future to circumstances you choose not to control.
You're where you are today-mentally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and, in many ways, physically-because of decisions you've made. Your decisions have always been governed by your thinking. Therefore, you are where you are today mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially because of the quality of your thoughts, the perspectives you have about life, and your beliefs about yourself and others. In other words, your thinking. Do you truly desire a significant change in your life? Change your thinking!
Overcoming Fear of Failure
When a person considers the Responsible Decision, he or she will likely confront the fear of failure. A new realization sets in: If I'm in control of my life, if I fail, then it really is my fault!
God didn't give you the discernment to make right decisions all the time. He did, however, grant you the ability to make wrong decisions right. Don't allow the rise and fall of your emotional tide to deter you from your course. Your life should not be an apology; it should be a statement-an extraordinary demonstration of the possibilities within all of us.
Another way of looking at failure is to ask yourself how you can use it to catapult your success. Is hitting rock bottom really the signal for your turning point? Although it doesn't feel like it, yes, you bet it is! Why? Because great ideas and inspiration often come from rock bottom.
Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, said, "That's where success lies-on the far side of failure."
When things don't go as planned, it generally means you need to make a course correction. We've all heard how Thomas Edison responded to the notion that he failed ten thousand times in creating the light bulb: "I didn't fail. I just discovered ten thousand ways not to make a light bulb."
When you view your "failures" as opportunities for growth and discovery, you free yourself from the fear of failure. How can you fail when your "failures" are merely lessons you learned on your way to success?
Og's Initiative for Success
I want to tell you the story of a man whose failures took him to the brink of destruction and back, paving the way for massive success. You may recognize the name Og Mandino even though he passed away in 1996. His seventeen books still grace the shelves of most bookstores in America. This man was an incredible influence on my life, although I wasn't acquainted with him personally.
Og Mandino was told by his mother-his champion and cheerleader-that he could be a successful writer. She died before he went to college. Aimlessly, Og joined the army after high school and fought in World War II. (He was a bombardier in the same squadron as Jimmy Stewart.)
Og returned to the United States after the war and discovered there wasn't much employment for bombardiers with only a high school education. The next ten years of his life were a living hell for him, his wife, and their daughter. He struggled to sell insurance, and it seemed that no matter how much he worked, his young family drifted deeper and deeper into debt.
Like so many frustrated individuals, he responded by hiding from his problems. After a long day of sales calls, he would stop by the bar and get a drink. One drink turned into two, two turned into three, and three into six. Eventually, when his wife and daughter could no longer endure his behavior or his words, they left him. The following two years of his life were a blur: He traveled the country in an old Ford, doing odd jobs to earn enough money for another bottle of wine. He spent countless nights in the gutter, literally-"a sorry wretch of a human being," as he put it.
One cold winter morning in Cleveland, he almost took his life. He paused at the window of a dingy pawnshop, gazing inside at a small handgun with a yellow tag attached: $29. He reached in his pocket and pulled out three ten-dollar bills. I could afford a couple of bullets. I'll go back to that room where I'm staying, and I'll never have to look at myself in the mirror again.
For whatever reason, Og did not kill himself. Years later, he joked about it, saying he was such a spineless person at the time, he couldn't muster the courage! As the snow fell that day in Cleveland, he turned from the pawnshop and wandered to a public library.
Og entered the self-help section and began to read fervently. For several months, he spent almost every afternoon and evening in the library, reading book after book until he found one called Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, by W. Clement Stone, the chairman and founder of Combined Insurance of America. He was so impressed by the idea that he could think his way to a different future that he began to apply the principles to every part of his life.
After becoming a successful insurance salesman for W. Clement Stone, he did what his mother had always wanted him to do-and what he had always wanted to do too-he became a writer for Stone's company's young magazine, Success Unlimited. He eventually became the editor of Success Unlimited and grew it from an in-house publication to a national publication with 250,000 subscribers.
One day, several months after he became the magazine's editor, he was short one article, with only a few days until press time. There was nothing suitable in the files. Since Og was a golf nut, he worked all night on a piece about golfer Ben Hogan, who had gone from being nearly left in a wheelchair after a terrible automobile accident to winning the U.S. Open.
Og ran the article in Success Unlimited, and several weeks later he received a letter from a New York publisher who had enjoyed the Hogan article. He offered Og the opportunity to submit a manuscript for review by the publishing house. Believe me, as an author, this is the kind of letter we dream about receiving!
Eighteen months after receiving that letter, Og's first book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, was published. When my mom and dad passed away, and I ended up sleeping under the pier, my own life at a total dead end, it was that book along with its little corollary, The Greatest Secret in the World, that I read over and over again.
It is absolutely amazing to see what has happened since that book's first printing of 5,000 copies. Soon, total sales reached 350,000, and then 500,000. Thirty years after its initial publication, it continues to sell more than 100,000 paperback copies each month, with more than 40 million copies of Og Mandino's books sold worldwide.
Excerpted from Mastering the SEVEN DECISIONS That Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews Copyright © 2008 by Andy Andrews. Excerpted by permission.
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